Category Archives: Musicals

‘Ballad of Little Jo’ opens tonite at Two River Theater in Red Bank

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Cindi Lauper is writing the songs for the upcoming “Working Girl” Broadway musical. Cher’s life and career is to be the source of a 2018 Broadway show. But long before that, another woman was making her  way in a man’s world (even if she was incognito) and her story was adapted for the stage as “The Ballad of Little Jo.”

The  musical first staged in 2000 at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company — based on a real story made into a 1993 movie of the same title written and directed by Maggie Greenwald — continues through Sunday, June 25, at the Two River Theater Company, 21 Bridge St., Red Bank, NJ.

Set in the late 19th century, “The Ballad of Little Jo” is inspired by a real-life story of American optimism, according to the press release, and infused with a score that evokes the folk ballads of pioneer America. It tells the story of a woman named Josephine Monaghan, originally from Boston and where unmarried  pregnant daughters are banished as disgraceful, makes her way to a tough Idaho mining town where she lived as a man called “Jo” for nearly 20 years.

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Reel 13 host Peña credits Paper Mill’s ‘Show Boat’ with verisimilitude

Nice, big, fat shout-out to Paper Mill Playhouse Saturday night during the Channel 13 screening of the 1951 version of “Show Boat” as part of its weekly Reel 13 classic movie feature.

At the end of “Show Boat” Prof. Richard Peña, currently the director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, talked about all the changes made to musical over the years including  downplaying the African-American characters, changing offensive lyrics, eliminating songs.

Eddie Bracken as Cap'n Andy Hawks and Rebecca Baxter as Magnolia in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of "Show Boat." It was featured on PBS' "Great Performances" series in 1989.
Eddie Bracken as Cap’n Andy Hawks and Rebecca Baxter as Magnolia in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of “Show Boat.” It was featured on PBS’ “Great Performances” series..

He noted that a live performance by the Paper Mill Playhouse was videotaped for television and shown on Great Performances on PBS  contains more of the songs (and fewer cuts) than any of the film versions. It also restored not only the original book of the 1927 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein but other songs and dance numbers thrown away over the years, he said.

Continue reading Reel 13 host Peña credits Paper Mill’s ‘Show Boat’ with verisimilitude

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ at Paper Mill Playhouse shakes up the house

Let’s just cut to the chase.  Nat Zegree practically steals the show at Paper Mill Playhouse playing the brash — let’s make that audacious — Jerry Lee Lewis  in “Million Dollar Quartet.” He ought to know what he’s doing by now as it’s the fifth time he’s played that part in the many productions of this jukebox musical about an unplanned event some say is a seminal moment in rock ‘n’ roll history.

The 2 1/2 musical features more than 20 classic hits including “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Memories Are Made of This,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog,” “(Ghost Riders in the Sky” and  “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

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‘La La Land’ movie references revealed

Side by side image of a scene from La La Land and  Shall We DanceThis will be short and sweet and fun, if you are a fan of musicals — movie musicals, that is, especially “La La Land.” Sara Preciado of the /Film blog definitely knows her MM stuff. She posted a short video on Vimeo that took a lot of time, pointing out “La La Land” movie references .

The video is available at: https://vimeo.com/200550228

Making Broadway bucks a crapshoot; ‘Jersey Boys’ investors hit right notes

Image of Jersey Boys poster“You could make a killing, but not a living, in the theater,” said playwright  Robert Anderson in a 1966 Christian Science Monitor interview about “Tea and  Sympathy,” his successful first Broadway play that was turned into a movie. Anderson couldn’t recreate that same success on stage and turned to teaching and writing Hollywood screenplays.

About 75 percent of Broadway shows — musicals and plays — don’t recoup their investment let alone make money for investors. In NY state there is a strict legal formula concerning who gets paid first (Hint: It’s not Max Bialystock). But that’s not what we’re talking about now. Lucky investors of the original production of “Jersey Boys,” the 12th longest running show on Broadway that grossed more than $2 billion worldwide, told the NYTimes in an article published today (1/15/17), they made back about 22 percent on their original investments.

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‘Bodyguard’ musical looks amazing, sounds great, needs better story

"The Bodyguard" at Paper Mill Playhouse features Judson Mills as Frank Farmer hired to protect Deborah Cox as pop singer Rachel Marron, who is being stalked . (PHOTO: Matthew Murphy)
“The Bodyguard” at Paper Mill Playhouse features Judson Mills as Frank Farmer hired to protect Deborah Cox as pop singer Rachel Marron, who is being stalked . (PHOTO: Matthew Murphy)

“The Bodyguard” begins with a bang — a gun shot, actually — that made every single theatergoer in the 1,200-seat Paper Mill Playhouse jump. It ends with pop music star Rachel Madden, elevated above the audience — alone in the spotlight.

First produced in London in 2012 and recently revived, the American production ends its 5-week U.S. debut this weekend  and continues its national tour Jan. 10-15 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, the second site for the 20 American cities tour. More dates are expected to be announced.  Most of the tour consists of 5-day stints, but several cities are booked for two- to three-week sit downs, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Costa Mesa. (Complete schedule below)

It’s the slickest production I’ve ever seen at the Millburn, NJ,   a nonprofit venue that has become a launch pad for  Broadway musicals recently, including “Newsies,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” and earlier this month “A Bronx Tale.” “Bandstand,” which premiered there in 2015 is scheduled to make its Broadway debut April 2017.

Continue reading ‘Bodyguard’ musical looks amazing, sounds great, needs better story

‘Shop Around the Corner’ TCM tonight; ‘She Loves Me’ streaming BroadwayHD

Just hang in here with me for a moment …

First there was the 1937 Hungarian play ‘Parfumerie’ by Miklós László.

It served as the basis for the screenplay for the 1940 American film “The Shop Around the Corner” starring Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan about two employees at a gift shop who can’t stand each other. Meanwhile, as each other’s anonymous pen pal, they are falling in love.

 

The next step, of course, was to turn the stage play into the 1949 Hollywood film musical “In the Good Old Summertime,” starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson.

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Paper Mill’s production of ‘West Side Story’ is sheer perfection on stage

The only thing wrong with “West Side Story” at Paper Mill Playhouse is that it ends on June 26. It’s the first time its been done here in 25 years so grab it while you can.

Helmed by Producing Artistic Director Mark Hoebee, the timing couldn’t be better for the theater (just finishing its 78 season) that recently was awarded the Regional Theatre Tony award. It also sent both “Newsies” and “Honeymoon in Vegas” to Broadway and will host the American premiere of “Bodyguard” next season. It’s firing on all cylinders with no end in sight.

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Obama goes to Broadway to see ‘Hamilton’ matinee

 "Hamilton" stars  Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) and sold out during its run off-Broadway at the Public Theater in New York. (PHOTO: Joan Marcus)
“Hamilton” stars Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) and sold out during its run off-Broadway at the Public Theater in New York. (PHOTO: Joan Marcus)

Lin-Manuel Miranda won’t be on stage in the title role of “Hamilton” when President Obama and his daughters attend today’s matinée of the red-hot Broadway musical. But he won’t be far.

Miranda, who also wrote and directed the show, now in previews, will be sitting in the audience evaluating it. Kinda hard to see how the show’s doing when you’re always on stage. He scheduled three such dates in advance before the Aug. 6 opening and today’s matinée is one of them, confirmed the show’s press representative Sam Rudy, according to the NYTimes.

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‘Downton Abbey’ on the road to being a musical?

Image of "Downton Abbey" cast, which will end its successful run on TV at the end of its next season.
“Downton Abbey” ends its successful run on TV at the end of its 2016 season.

I love musicals. I love “Downton Abbey.” But a musical of this hit British TV series about a snooty English Earl and his family … It seems, though, we’re not talking traditional stage musical and the show’s creator Julian Fellowes is involved so maybe this isn’t a train  wreck waiting to happen.

That’s what various news outlets are reporting. Playbill.com, referring to an article in  The Independent of London, says the show that focuses on the Crawley before, during and following World War I is being adapted as a stage musical that would go on a global theatrical tour.

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